The Mutilator Blu-ray Review
Written by Robert Gold
Blu-ray released by Arrow Video
Directed by Buddy Cooper and John Douglass
Written by Buddy Cooper
1985, 86 minutes, Unrated
Released on February 16th, 2016
Matt Mitler as Ed
Ruth Martinez as Pam
Bill Hitchcock as Ralph
Connie Rogers as Sue
Frances Raines as Linda
Morey Lampley as Mike
Jack Chatham as Big Ed
Ed and his friends are stuck on campus during fall break with nothing to do and nowhere to go. Things start looking up when he gets a call from his estranged father asking him to lock up the beach condo for the winter. Ed and company make the drive to the island where they plan to spend four days relaxing on the beach. When they arrive, they are mildly concerned to find the front door standing open. Nothing is obviously missing except his dad’s battle axe, so Ed decides not to call the police. A quick tour reveals a large trophy room lined with the heads of various animals. Curiously, Ed’s dad keeps a framed photograph of a gravely injured man he accidentally hit with a speedboat. The next several hours are spent drinking, swimming, playing games and making out, but soon trouble arrives when a strange man begins hunting the couples down one by one.
Arriving on the scene just as the slasher film was closing out its Golden Age (1978-1984), The Mutilator is a low-budget regional horror movie out of North Carolina from writer/director Buddy Cooper. Shot under the title Fall Break, the picture follows the successful genre formula with horny teens in an isolated location looking for a good time, but ending up dead. There is no attempt to conceal the killer’s identity or apparent motivation but it is unclear as to what triggers him to act now; the man simply wakes up one day and decides to kill everyone he meets. Cooper spends the first half of the picture setting up the characters and their playful interaction. Once the mayhem begins, Cooper gets creative with the kills, adopting a nautical theme for the killer’s implements of death, including most notoriously a large fishing gaff.
The Mutilator doesn’t try to be anything more than it is: an enthusiastic stalk-and-slash chiller meant to entertain audiences with familiar tropes and over-the-top murder set-pieces. It succeeds for the most part but takes its time getting to the horror elements. The characters are not particularly well-developed but all are likeable and good natured. We get the virginal girl and her understanding boyfriend, the horny couple, the joker and his level-headed girlfriend. Performances are respectable but not outstanding, with this being the sole acting venture for the majority of the cast. Matt Mitler (Battle for the Lost Planet) and Ruth Martinez star as protagonists Ed and Pam, and the two play well off each other. Sharing the load, Mitler carries the first half of the picture with Martinez stepping up for the final act.
The script may be derivative and the performances so-so, but genre fans are in it for the kills and it is here that the movie delivers. The murders are sufficiently gruesome and gory, albeit a tad on the dark side. Lighting levels are frequently low, making some shots difficult to see, but the effects work courtesy of Mark Shostrum (Phantasm II) is impressive. Highlights include death by outboard motor, a machete to the face, impalements, decapitation and the show-stopping gaff scene that earned the picture its shocking reputation. There’s plenty of blood to satisfy gorehounds and viewers will be pleased to learn this disc features the uncensored cut of the film. The Mutilator doesn’t carry the same name recognition as other ‘80s slashers, but it has a dedicated fan base and is definitely worth adding to your collection.
Video and Audio:
A 2K scan and restoration of the original film elements yields positive results. The picture is presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio and while still a bit dark, the new transfer reveals previously absent details. Colors are vibrant and flesh tones appear natural throughout.
The only audio option is a LPCM 1.0 track that preserves the mono recordings. Music cues and sound effects are effectively creepy and dialogue levels are clear and understandable. Optional English subtitles are included for anyone in need.
The disc opens with a brief introduction from the filmmakers explaining the efforts to deliver a restored presentation of the original unrated version of the movie (1 minute).
There are two audio commentaries moderated by disc producer Ewan Cant, with the first featuring director Buddy Cooper, co-director John Douglass, asst. special effects artist/asst. editor Edmund Ferrell and star Matt Mitler. The group discussion covers a lot of territory concerning all phases of production. Cooper is great at telling stories and Douglass and Ferrell frequently jump in making for a highly informative albeit a bit dry track.
The second commentary teams Cooper with actress Ruth Martinez Tutterow and this one is a bit livelier. The conversation is well-paced with even more details provided and additional humorous anecdotes from the set.
The exhaustive documentary Fall Breakers: The Story of The Mutilator (75 minutes) details the making of the film from concept to production to theatrical release, featuring interviews with many key participants, including Cooper, Douglass and Ferrell joined by actors Mitler, Martinez, Bill Hitchcock, Jack Chatham and more. The piece is loaded with colorful anecdotes and behind-the-scenes video. Production stories cover a wide range of topics, including casting, special effects, theatrical distribution and troubles with the MPAA ratings board.
Mutilator Memories (16 minutes) catches up with make-up artist Mark Shostrum, who takes a candid look back at his efforts on the film. His memories are mostly positive, but he is quick to point out some of the gags that didn’t work as planned. Shostrum is an interesting guy who went on to enjoy an impressive career in the industry and this interview is definitely worth checking out.
Composer Michael Minard sits down for the segment Tunes for the Dunes (8 minutes) and offers details about his writing process and setting the tone for the picture. He admits the upbeat tempo of the insanely cheery theme song may have been a mistake.
Some rare behind-the-scenes video (16 minutes) gives viewers a look at the production with an emphasis on the special effects.
A collection of screen tests (13 minutes) showcases members of the cast auditioning.
The film appears under the original title Fall Break, but the alternate opening credits sequence under the name The Mutilator is also included (4 minutes).
There are two theatrical trailers, three TV spots and two radio ads included.
The catchy “Fall Break” theme song is presented both in its original cut as well as a separate saxophone heavy instrumental version.
There are two Easter eggs offering some extended interview clips.
Storyboards for the opening sequence are also included (5 minutes).
A slideshow gallery of behind-the-scenes stills (9 minutes) is also provided.
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